Friday, November 14, 2014

The Homeless Question

While homelessness in America is no new phenomenon, it's persistence begs the question; what is to be done about the homeless?
In New York City, home to over 57,000 homeless people, parks have been "taken over" by homeless people not living in shelters.
And this is a common solution both for homeless people, and the residents that they seem to be disturbing.  Yet this has been employed in New York City, and while it is used by many homeless people, most find the system to be less than desirable.
Similar problems in Fort Lauderdale Florida have led to an ordinance prohibiting feeding homeless people.  At least one person however finds this unfair, and continues to feed homeless people in spite of two prior arrests for doing so.

This inevitably poses the question, what extent should the government be able to restrict what we as citizens can do?
That is, should they be able to prevent people from feeding homeless people?
Additionally, is this method a practical tactic against homelessness?  Is it morally right?
What is it about our current political climate that makes most Americans less sympathetic to homeless people, and less inclined to give government more power?
(E.g. under FDR the government imposed rationing on many goods as a result of the Great Depression)
Are shelters an apt solution to the homeless question?

7 comments:

Angelia Fontanos said...

If the government wants to restrict people from helping the homeless, what would they be accomplishing? I don't see what the government could possibly accomplish by prohibiting people to help the homeless other than to lose the trust of the homeless. I don't think a solution like the one implemented in Fort Lauderdale is the most practical tactic against homelessness. If homeless people essentially have nothing, how are they supposed to try to get back on their feet without help from others? When devising a solution to homelessness, you should focus on finding shelter for the homeless and a way to get them a job so they can support themselves.

Franziska Shelton said...

I agree with Angelia. Not only was the ordinance in Florida ridiculous and immoral, but actually arresting someone for not complying was taking it too far. Not allowing citizens to help fulfill the most basic needs of the less fortunate is absurd, especially if it's a 90 year old man. However, this of course is not a permanent solution. Much more will need to be done to get the thousands of homeless people into shelters and eventually able to support themselves. I believe that change can only occur we have social changes and people are more willing to help the homeless. This would have to start with getting rid of such ordinances like the one in Florida, which is wrong and in no way helps solve the problem. Finding better ways to accommodate the homeless and with shelters, housing, and jobs, while difficult, can be done. Obviously the economy fluctuates, so homelessness is not a completely solvable problem, but it certainly could be better than what it is now.

Lindsay Block said...

I agree with both Angelia and Franziska, this plan of restricting aid does not seem likely to change public action towards the homeless. If people want to help, they should be able to, prohibiting them from doing so will not solve any problem. Taking away the park benches in the Bronx is completely absurd, not only will this drive away locals even more, but will push homeless people using these benches back onto the streets. Many people are under the impression that homeless people need to help themselves and not be helped by others in order to succeed without learning to rely on the crutch of the community. However, this tactic of preventing people from helping the homeless should be replaced with helping them in a more sustainable way, like providing opportunities to improve their situation but at the same time giving aid where it is needed. This alternative would prove more lasting than simply giving out help, and while this is not a quick fix people want, it could be a far better way to help the homeless than ignoring them and hoping they go away.

Stephen Schick said...

I also find this law restricting people from providing aid to the homeless to be ridiculous. It's insane that we have come to regard these fellow human beings with such low of a bearing as to treat them like one would rats and other pests, with the idea that "If we just don't feed them they'll go away". This is disgusting, and I am in agreement with the rest here in the fact that the focus should be on providing opportunities out of their current situation instead of simply trying to chase the homeless out of cities with frightfully immoral ordinances. Additionally I feel there is a necessity to face the source of the problem instead of patching it up with solutions after the fact. Homelessness is often a product of either poverty, crime or mental illness, and by directing energy into preventing these elements from driving people into homelessness we can better deal with the problem instead of simply waiting for it to solve itself.

Antony Cabuslay said...

While I agree that these laws seem like they will not help the homeless plight, we have to acknowledge the fact that there shouldn't be thousands of vagrants wandering around parks at night. They have become a public nuisance, as indicated in the first article, harassing residents, public defecation, urination, drug use, sex, things that have no business happening on public land. In response to the generic "we need to help them, not drive them away." it is not as if there are no programs designed to do just that. I mean, it's not like they willfully chose to leave/ignore the shelter system, many to escape the "restricting" rules imposed on them. The way I see it, forcing them to seek actual legitimate institutions for aid, forces them to adhere to the conditions of aid that will help them get back on their feet.

Brendan Vroom 6 said...

I also believe that the ordinance restricting citizen assistance to homeless people in need of food is absolutely ridiculous. First of all, criminalizing an act of kindness makes no sense, and is both a restriction on the rights of the people as well as extremely immoral. Administering penalties for helping homeless people makes life for the homeless more difficult, and isolates them even more from normal society.In order to begin resolving the issue of homelessness, the government needs to improve shelters and create better programs to help homeless people build a life for themselves.

Alex Medwid said...

I'm not entirely sure how it could be constitutional to forbid such a thing.

I don't think that preventing people from feeding the homeless is a very practical method at all of preventing homelessness. Some people claim that it "incentivizes" homeless people to not find jobs. This ignores most of the typical reasons for homelessness which include mental health issues.

Homeless shelters are a step in the right direction but there are real reasons why there are so many homeless people that are not in shelters. Theft, drug addiction, and fighting are common in homeless shelters. I don't claim to have a perfect solution, but the amount of resources dedicated to homeless shelters needs to be increased a lot.